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CNN Today

Tony Blair To Visit Camp David

Aired February 23, 2001 - 1:21 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush plays host to his first European head of state today. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is just beginning a two-day visit to Camp David, mixing business with a picturesque weekend away from it all in the Maryland mountains.

The business likely will include Iraq, the ongoing U.S./British airstrike, and new allegations that China's helping bolster Iraq air defenses.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush had this to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're concerned about Chinese presence in Iraq. And we are -- my administration is sending the appropriate response to the Chinese.

Yes, it is -- it's troubling that they would be involved in helping Iraq, develop a system that will endanger our pilots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: CNN's Major Garrett joins us now from the White House with more on the Bush/Blair summit.

Major, why are we calling a summit?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's probably a little bit of a overreach, Lou. This is really a meeting designed to bolster the personal relationship between Prime Minister Blair and the new U.S. president, George W. Bush.

You know, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was reigning in Britain, she had a saying, "accentuate the positive." Well, the British and U.S. officials are describing this two-day meeting as something that will accentuate the personal -- try to create a strong personal bond between Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair.

It's worth pointing out that Mr. Blair had a very strong personal bond with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who both in their eyes created a third way of U.S. politics here in the United States and in Britain.

But the Bush administration hopes to achieve and create that strong personal bond between the president and the British prime minister. But also talk some various serious issues. You mentioned Iraq. Clearly U.S. and Britain allied again in that containment policy, dealing with Iraq.

Earlier today on CNN, the British prime minister was asked if he was any way growing tired of that containment policy dealing with Saddam Hussein.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is a man that is a serial sinner when it comes to weapons of mass destruction and a threat to the external world. And I think it's important, therefore, that we take whatever steps necessary to contain him. And our containment has basically been successful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: Basically successful from the eyes of the British prime minister in that Iraq no longer menaces its neighbors as it did with Iran in that war in the '80s, or as it did with Kuwait in the early '90s.

But the British prime minister and U.S. officials conceive that there is frustration and a sense of fatigue in Europe, generally, and in Russia, particularly, with the U. N. sanctions regime against Iraq. And the British prime minister and U.S. officials say that will be a key topic.

One interesting topic, Lou, that's not going to be on the table -- or if it is on the table, it hasn't been highlighted by either British or U.S. officials. And that's the ongoing efforts to resolve difficulty with Northern Ireland, the entire Good Friday peace accord, which British Prime Minister Tony Blair has devoted tremendous attention to. Former President Bill Clinton also was heavily involved in. But this White House, under President Bush, has shown almost as it does in the Middle East, sort of a stepping back and hands-off approach -- Lou.

WATERS: And Major, a bone of contention among Europeans has been the Bush administration's push for missile defense system. Any sign that Mr. Blair himself might be softening up a bit on that?

GARRETT: Well, there have been movements of the last couple of weeks. Significant movements in Europe and even in the Russian federation on the question of national missile defense system.

And the way White House officials are interpreting those moves as a softening of opposition, which was very strong six or seven months ago, is that the Europeans and the Russians generally, possibly independently, moving to a joint conclusion that, no matter what their objections are, this country under President Bush will research and develop, and as soon as possible deploy a national missile defense system.

Now, you've got the Russians saying that they'd be interested in deploying one themselves, possibly sharing their technology with the Europeans. All signs, the U.S. believes, that they're coming around, understanding the reality that there is a threat of ballistic missiles, both in Europe and the United States. And it might not be a bad idea for the Europeans to rush in -- and the United States to get together on this, instead of fight over it -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Major Garrett at the White House.

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